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Despite progress, children’s rights far from universal

NEW YORK, 20 November 2004 - On the 15th anniversary today of the international adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that despite major advancements for children that include the creation of new laws in many countries, the rights of millions of children remain forgotten or ignored.

“The enactment of new laws set in motion by the Convention is a positive step that is critical to protecting the rights of children, but legal reform must be pursued at the same timeas social policies that address the challenges facing children right now,” Bellamy said. “Too many children are growing up without basic health care, education and protection from abuse and exploitation.”

Adopted in 1989 and ratified by every country in the world except two, the CRC is the most widely accepted international human rights treaty in history. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harm, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

The implementation of the CRC remains a critical strategy to achieving the Millennium Declaration and the Millenium Development Goals, behind which the international community stands.

A recent review by UNICEF of 62 countries that have strived to implement the CRC shows that:

• More than half the countries studied have incorporated the CRC into domestic law;
• Nearly a third of the countries have incorporated important provisions on the rights of the child into their constitutions;
• Nearly half the countries have adopted codes or comprehensive laws on children.

In addition, two optional protocols anchored on the CRC have been approved since: one on the involvement of children in armed conflict; and the second on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. There has been widespread ratification of both of these, and their implementation is gaining momentum, Bellamy said.

The review also found that the CRC has led to important institutional reforms, including the establishment of more than 60 independent human rights institutions for children in at least 38 states around the world. 

With the UN Special Session on Children in 2002, independent institutions joined in a global network to enhance their advocacy on behalf of children’s rights, and committed to double their number by end decade. 

“These independent institutions constitute a critical pillar of a global movement to specifically monitor and protect the rights of children,” Bellamy said.

But the study also found that while high-level political commitment has been essential to the development of new laws protecting children’s rights, social change has been sustained only when that commitment has been matched by effective law enforcement, allocation of adequate resources and the engagement of all levels of society.

“Only when governments are dedicated to developing and implementing laws to protect children and work in partnership with all sectors of society will we have the true culture of human rights for children that the CRC envisions,” Bellamy said.

A renewed commitment to children’s rights is essential at a time when nearly 11 million children before the age of five die every year, most from preventable causes, Bellamy said.

“Children are dying because their families are too poor to be sick,” said Bellamy. “If we are truly to make a difference in children’s lives, and have a chance at achieving the social and economic goals of the world community, we must make the rights of these marginalized and forgotten children our highest priority. The rights to education, health care and a safe and loving environment in which to thrive must never be theoretical. They must be a reality for all children.”

For more information, please contact:
Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF New York, 212 326 7269,
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York, 212


 

 

 

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